Senior guard Khalif Toombs tossed in a team-high 24 points and dished out six assist, while junior forward Matthew Hezekiah recorded his sixth double-double of season with 18 points and 11 rebounds but it wasn't enough as SC State's late second-half rally fell short 85-75 to Bethune-Cookman Saturday at Moore Gymnasium.
"We spotted them too many points early on in the game with the turnovers (20)," said head coach Murray Garvin. "It's hard to defend that atomic bomb (turnovers) it places you in a difficult situation."
Garvin stated, "I can't say enough about the play of Hezekiah and Toombs tonight. Matthew Hezekiah is becoming one of the premier post players in the conference, while Khalif has been through the storm and is the heartbeat of our time."
The Bulldogs found themselves in a hole early on being down as many as 14, 35-21 off a 3-pointer by guard Paul Scotland at the 6:11 mark in the first half. Sophomore guard/forward Devin Joint's floating jumper with 3:37 left cut the lead to single digits nine, 35-26.
Senior forward Adrien Coleman and the Wildcats came clawing back nailing a jumper and knocking down pair of free-threes to push the lead to 14, 40-26 with 0:53 seconds remaining. Bethune-Cookman led 40-28 during the half.
The Wildcats opened the second-half with senior Kevin Dukes nailing 3-of-4 3-pointers in the first two minutes to spark a 16-2 run and give Bethune-Cookman their largest margin of the night 26, 56-30.
SC State came charging back sparking a 24-7 run off a monster dunk by Hezekiah and junior guard Adama "Louis" Adams scoring five straight points on a floating jumper and a long range 3-pointer to cut the lead to nine, 63-54 with 9:31 left.
"I told our guys that if we play in four-minute segments and be strong with the ball we can get back in this game," said Garvin.
Freshman forward Darryl Palmer scored back-to-back layups to pull the Bulldogs within six, 69-63 at the 5:30 mark. Dukes and Coleman each knocked down a pair of key free-throws from charity stripe to push the lead to 10, 73-63 with 4:49 remaining.
Toombs would not be denied tossing in back-to-back 3-pointers with less than 0:58 seconds remaining to cut the lead to four, 79-75. Coleman sealed the victory for the Wildcats converting on a layup while being fouled to extend the lead to nine, 84-75 with 0:29 seconds remaining in regulation.
Costly turnovers doomed SC State down the stretch, which led to 33 unanswered points by Bethune-Cookman to give them the deciding edge. The Wildcats had three players in double figures with Coleman leading the way with a game-high 26 points and 11 rebounds. Dukes added 19, while guard Paul Scotland chipped in 10 in the victory.
Palmer finished with 13 points and five rebounds in the losing effort for the Bulldogs. SC State falls to 5-20 overall, 1-11 in the MEAC, while Bethune-Cookman improves to 11-16 overall, 6-6 in the league.
"It's back to the drawing board we get ready for Florida A&M on Monday," stated the Bulldog head coach.
South Carolina State returns to action on Monday when they face MEAC foe Florida A& M in pivotal league showdown. Tip-off is 7:30 p.m., immediately following the women's contest.